Why Do Penguins Huddle?

Penguins huddle to protect themselves against the cold, chilling Arctic winds in their native environment. Huddling allows penguins to share and retain body warmth, which in turn prevents them from catching chills in sometimes dangerously cold conditions. Although they form huddles often, penguins change the shape of their formations and change their positions within the group for maximum warmth dissemination.

Penguin huddles may take several shapes, including circles and rectangles. Regardless of shape, however, huddles serve the purpose of protecting penguins from winds, which may gust up to 100 miles per hour, and from the bitter cold, as temperatures in the Arctic may drop to 60 degrees below zero. Once they form a huddle, penguins warm the air around them. Temperatures within their huddles may reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Despite seeming like inert masses, penguin huddles constantly move and change. At any time, penguins form layers within the huddles, with some penguins on the inside and others surrounding them. Penguins take turns in the center and along the circle boundaries; regular change in position lets the outer penguins move to the warmer inner core.

In addition to staying warm, huddles help penguins conserve energy. They may go over 100 days without eating, and huddling reduces excess energy expenditure. In any huddle, each penguin looks to retain the most warmth, but they ultimately share the benefits and burdens of group huddles by changing places and dispersing body heat.